PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of Rhode Islanders gathered outside the State House Tuesday night following the unprecedented leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft decision that calls for the reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which has guaranteed women the constitutional right to an abortion since 1973.
The draft majority opinion, which was obtained and released by Politico on Monday, argues that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong from the start.”
The Supreme Court has yet to officially issue a ruling on the matter, which was brought before them in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The formal ruling is expected to be made in late June or early July.
Even if Roe v. Wade is formally overturned, both Rhode Island and Massachusetts have codified abortion rights into state law. The decisions were made in anticipation of such a ruling from the Supreme Court.
But two state lawmakers have renewed their push to ensure that abortion procedures are covered for all Rhode Island women.
The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, sponsored by Rep. Liana Cassar and Sen. Bridget Valverde, would repeal the ban on abortion coverage for both state employees and Medicaid recipients.
“Our nation appears poised to move a half-century backward in reproductive health care, so it’s up to us to fully protect Rhode Islanders’ safety,” Valverde said.
Their proposal was front and center at Tuesday night’s rally, which was organized by The Womxn Project (TWP).
“We are not going to stand for this,” Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos told the crowd. “We know that abortion is health care.”
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Alexis Scott, a student at Providence College, said she attended the rally to make sure that her voice was heard.
“I know women who have had abortions and I love women who have had abortions,” Scott said. “The Supreme Court is acting as an enemy to women right now.”
Dr. Megan Smith, a resident physician at Women and Infant’s Hospital, told the crowd she is proud to call herself an abortion provider.
“As a doctor, I can tell you I’m scared,” Smith said. “I’m scared for my patients whose lives are threatened by being pregnant in a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world … I am scared for my high-risk patients who will be forced to continue a pregnancy that is destroying their bodies while we watch helplessly.”
“Birthing people have the right to make decisions about their bodies, about their families and about their futures,” she continued. “We are in a war that we can’t lose.”
The rally also served as a reminder to everyone that abortion access is on the ballot this year, not only in Rhode Island, but across the country.
“Elections matter,” Rhode Island Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Nellie Gorbea said. “In this election cycle, it will be crucial for all of us to show up and vote for those who have a proven track record of fighting for reproductive rights.”
“We need elected leaders who walk the walk and talk the talk,” she continued. “We must elect individuals who trust people to make their own personal health care decisions … there is no time to waste.”
Gov. Dan McKee has repeatedly reassured Rhode Islanders that the state will continue to protect women’s right to choose. He’s also expressed his support for the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act.
“We will NOT go backwards on reproductive rights,” the governor said.
In response to the Supreme Court’s draft decision, McKee joined a coalition of 17 governors who are calling upon Congress to take immediate action to protect women’s reproductive rights.
“I trust women to make their own health care decisions in consultation with their health care provider,” McKee said.
Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin refused to comment on the draft decision because it is not set in stone.
“In the meantime, I urge everyone to reflect upon this very important issue, that involves one of our core beliefs in the dignity of human life, with humility, peace and prayer,” Tobin said.